The Dead Sea Scrolls, A Full History

Who discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls? When and where were they discovered? How were they saved? Who bought them and who paid for them? Who has them now and who owns them? Will more be discovered? Have all the scrolls been published? Are some still hidden away? Were there conspiracies to suppress some scrolls? Preceded by The Dead Sea Scrolls, A Short History, The Dead Sea Scrolls, A Full History, vol. 1, is the first of a projected two volumes offering a more complete account of the discovery of the scrolls and their history over the past 60 years since the first scrolls were discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea.

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Weston W. Fields, Th.D., Ph.D., has been Executive Directory of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in Jerusalem since 1991. He taught at Grace College and Theological Seminary for ten years and at the Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College) for seven years. For the past eighteen years he has worked closely with the editors of the official publications of the scrolls, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert. Since 1999 he has traveled extensively in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States in order to interview everyone from the first generation of scholars then alive, including those who discovered scrolls in the 1950s or were the first to examine and reconstruct them. As a result of these personal meetings he has amassed a large and diverse collection of personal letters, papers, and archives related to the first scrolls scholars, especially the famous Qumran Cave 4 Team.
'Since the discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, interest in their content has been matched by fascination with their own recent history, from discovery to publication. This first volume of Weston Fields’ “A Full History” will gratify the scholar and non-specialist alike, while piquing anticipation for the continuation of the narrative in volume 2. This is a work of love as well as scholarship. On every page, the reader is aware of the immense amount of time, effort, and dedication that F. invested in acquiring precise data; analyzing, dissecting, and distilling competing reports; and reconstructing them into a coherent, balanced and clear account. From the very first page of the extensive and warm acknowledgments through to the last page of the thorough index, this book exudes respect bordering on awe for the DSS and the participants in the story, as well as sensitivity to the intended readers. The special value of his work is in his commitment to primary sources, including hours of personal interviews as well as documents, photos, and other physical records. [...] In all of the chapters outlined below, the text is complemented by high-quality photographs, which contribute to the vividness of the account. Further aids to the reader are supplied in the end material, including a glossary and very informative endnotes.'
Shani Tzoref, Jerusalem, Journal for the Study of Judaism 43 (2012) 80-139

'This lavishly illustrated volume contains a virtual mini-archive of the momentous events relating to the discovery, acquisition and early publication history of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Fields interviewed all the living major, as well as some minor, players or their family members in different parts of the world. Among them are Arab nomads, local Arab antiquities dealers, scholars, wealthy collectors and librarians. Fields studied the archives of universities and institutions in various countries and reproduces much of what he has discovered word for word.

Fields is extremely even-handed and very rarely passes judgment on the events he records. If anything, he is perhaps a little too reticent in offering his own take on things, especially given the huge amount of research he has undertaken. All in all this project—to be completed with a second volume covering the remainder of the story—is the result of many years of painstaking work, exhausting travel and devoted research. Fields has done scholars and the public a huge service. We look forward to the next installment.

Charlotte Hempel is a senior lecturer in Biblical studies in the school of philosophy, theology and religion at the University of Birmingham, UK. She cochairs the Qumran section of the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, serves as reviews editor for the Journal of Jewish Studies and is a member of the editorial board of Dead Sea Discoveries'.

'Since 1998, W. W. Fields has investigated how the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, acquired,and edited. This first volume of his “Full History” covers the years 1947–1960.It is rich in detail and discloses the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls based on interviews with the first generation of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars and other people involved in their discovery and publication. In the course of his interviews, Fields has unearthed a wealth of archival material, including diaries and letters previously unknown to the public, which add significant source material to his account. The resulting history of the Dead Sea Scrolls will surprise the specialist and lay person alike in its detail. The book is thoroughly illustrated with historic photographs, many in color, illuminating the discovery and editing of the scrolls'.

'In conclusion, volume 1 of The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Full History is an inestimable contribution to scrolls historiography. It will appeal to scholars and students of biblical scholarship, but also to academia in general and a popular audience. Despite its price, which curtails its mass appeal, it is highly recommended. And, based on the riveting narrative still unfolding, volume 2 is awaited with great anticipation.'

Jaqueline Du Toit, University of the Free State (South Africa)
H-Judaic (September, 2011)

'Fields has succeeded in writing a masterful survey that puts the events into their chronological order and reveals numerous startling details. He had provided the interested reader with a most useful reference work which, through its beautiful colour pictures, is also very pleasant to read. Hence, this book not only offers the general public with a reliable and accurate account of the scrolls' early history, but definitely deserves a place on the shelf of any scholar involved or interested in Dead Sea Scrolls research. One eagerly awaits the second volume.'

H. Debel, Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses
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